Trans-fatty acids are fats that are manufactured by solidifying or “partially hydrogenating” vegetable oils that are normally liquid at room temperature. They are found extensively in processed foods, as they add shelf life to the products. As Paul Chek explains in his book How to Eat, Move, and Be Healthy! trans-fats structurally are closer to plastic than fat, and have been linked to heart disease and elevated cholesterol levels. As opposed to the much maligned saturated fats, trans-fats really do cause problems in the body. Trans-fats are finally getting the bad reputation they deserve, and food manufacturers and fast-food restaurants are starting to look for ways to remove them from their products. Unfortunately, these fats are cheap to produce, and will probably remain everywhere in our food supply for a long time to come, AND they are usually NOT listed on food labels.
The best way to avoid trans-fats is to avoid processed foods altogether, as you will then also succeed in avoiding all kinds of other nasty stuff like colourings, flavourings, preservatives etc. Margarine and shortening are probably the most well-known trans-fats out there. Use raw organic butter instead. If you want to figure out if there are trans-fats in those favourite packaged foods that you are not currently ready to give up, here is what you do. Take the total fat listed on the label, and subtract out the saturated and unsaturated fats, and this will give you the total trans-fats in the food. Hopefully it is zero!
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Chek, Paul; How to Eat, Move and Be Healthy! Chek Institute, San Diego, CA, 2004.
Enig, Mary; Know Your Fats: The Complete Primer For Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils, and Cholesterol Bethesda Press, Silver Spring, MD, 2003.
Chek, Paul; You Are What You Eat CD Series Chek Institute, San Diego, CA, 2002.